Epilepsy is a treatable—if not yet curable—medical condition. An estimated 70% of people are able to live seizure-free if properly treated, but access to care has historically been fraught with obstacles.
Yet, new hope may be on the horizon for underserved populations of people living with epilepsy in the United States. In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, consumer demand is rapidly growing in the healthcare sector for new telehealth solutions that expand treatment options for patients.
We at Novela see this as an opportune time to offer innovative remote-care technologies that help break down barriers to care by offering affordable at-home seizure monitoring for people with epilepsy.
A Roadblock to Epilepsy Treatment: Limited Transportation
A common roadblock to getting medical treatment is that people with epilepsy often struggle to find transportation to and from their doctor’s office.
People with epilepsy are less likely to drive, largely due to state and federal laws in the United States that usually require a months-long seizure-free period in order to be eligible for a driver’s license. As a result, close to 9% of people with epilepsy are unable to obtain healthcare services due to a lack of transportation.
Transportation woes are especially pronounced in rural areas, where a person with epilepsy may live far away from urban areas with robust healthcare infrastructure. With close to 60 million Americans living in rural areas, and 1 in 26 people developing epilepsy during their lifetime, that’s a lot of people getting left behind in their medical care because they struggle to get to their doctor’s office.
Financial Burdens for People with Epilepsy
Even if a person with epilepsy is able to get to their appointments, they might not be able to foot the bill. Unfortunately, people with epilepsy are more likely to be unemployed and earn below-average incomes. According to the CDC, over 30% of people with epilepsy are unable to work due to their medical condition.
Being underemployed or unemployed can make it a challenge to afford medical care, including medications and frequent healthcare copays. This problem of affordability is further compounded for the 15% of people with epilepsy who are uninsured.
Hope on the Horizon: the Dawn of Telehealth during COVID-19
Despite all of the hardships created by the COVID-19 pandemic, there may be a silver lining: new regulatory waivers have extended coverage for telehealth services, allowing providers to offer an additional 135 telehealth services to recipients of Medicare, Medicaid, and the Children’s Health Insurance Program.
These new regulations allow for telehealth video appointments, audio-based care, new flexibilities in HIPAA requirements, and increased reimbursement for these newly covered services.
In the case of epilepsy care, this could be a huge game-changer, reducing the need for in-person appointments and allowing more cost-effective treatments for insured patients. With over 45% of people with epilepsy on Medicare or Medicaid, people with epilepsy stand to benefit enormously from the shift to telehealth.
Although these waivers are currently temporary, The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services has proposed ongoing expansions of telehealth into 2021 and possibly beyond.
Novela’s nEureka® Solution
Here’s where our Eureka! moment—or nEureka® for an added neurological spin—comes in.
We have long been working on a data platform that captures and aggregates brain and other health signals into a simple data infrastructure. The platform allows easy communication between neuroscientists working on the same problem. However, the shifting landscape toward telehealth and the soaring need for remote-care services further highlight the need to break down barriers to care and vastly improve the lives of people with epilepsy.
Toward this end, we’ve created an all-in-one wearable seizure diary, which logs seizures and automatically captures health data with just the press of a button. Doctors can remotely access their patients’ seizure history and health data through our nEureka® data platform, making it easy for doctors to quickly spot underlying patterns and optimize treatment plans.
Even better: we aim to leverage new regulatory changes to make our wearable seizure diary fully reimbursable by insurance—meaning at no cost to patients.
To help make this vision a reality, we’ve launched a campaign to raise funds for a clinical trial for 50 people to try our smartwatch. We’ve called our campaign #BigDataBeatEpilepsy because we know that better data lead to better treatments for epilepsy.
Our effort to launch at-home seizure monitoring is an initiative that is as timely as it is necessary. By cutting down on the need for in-person appointments, potentially reducing hospitalizations due to uncontrolled seizures, and spearheading a data-centric approach to treating epilepsy, we aspire to improve the lives of millions of people living with epilepsy.